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Great Bend Focuses on Parks

By Ted Brewster

Great Bend Borough has three jewel-like parks, and now that spring weather is arriving, the town's Council is turning more attention to them. At their meeting on April 8th – a week later than usual due to a scheduling conflict – members heard the latest from Liz Landes about plans for Weigand Memorial Park, heard from Borough Secretary Sheila Guinan about a contractor parking vehicles in Greenwood Park during bridge construction, and considered demolition of a couple of structures on a recent addition to VFW Recreation Park.

Delta Engineers have developed a proposal for upgrades to Weigand Memorial Park that would use some of a $60,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Delta estimates that their work probably won't cost the minimum of $10,000 required under the grant for engineering, but the Borough should be ready soon to solicit bids for the work.

In the meantime, Ms. Landes has come up with some additional ideas for the park that she hopes to fund with a grant from AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), including spiffier fencing and a locally-designed mural to hang thereon, for a total of more than $20,000. There is some question whether there might be a collision between the goals of the two grants, particularly with respect to design and engineering.

Ms. Landes is already planning for the annual Community Day, this year scheduled for Saturday, July 17. The party is expected to offer pony rides and a petting zoo, but Ms. Landes is looking for local talent to provide additional entertainment. She also asked Council for a donation of $150 for bracelets to be distributed as souvenirs of the event.

And she is hoping to stage a cornhole tournament in VFW Recreation Park on the following Saturday, the 24th of July. With recent additions to that, the biggest of the town's parks, there should be room for a crowd for the popular pastime, even if the Little League is still using the ballfield. She just wants to be sure that the rest rooms and concession stand will be available. Proceeds from the event will be used for the park itself.

Last year, VFW park was augmented with the purchase of two adjoining properties. Structures on those properties are not livable, and were closed up for the winter, awaiting Council's decision about what to do with them. It seems they will now be demolished, and Ms. Guinan will develop a bid package for the project, since it will likely cost more than the threshold required for formal bids.

Council member Mike VanGorden appealed to responsible dog owners to clean up after their pets, particularly in the town's parks. It seems to have become an issue especially in VFW Recreation Park. Council will consider positioning a bag dispenser to encourage pet owners to do the right thing after their pets do their thing.

Ms. Guinan also procured paperwork from Fabcor, the contractor that will be working on the major bridge over the rail tracks on US Route 11 (Main Street) at the south end of town. The agreement protects the borough from damage that might occur when the company parks vehicles in Greenwood Park for the duration of the project.

Among other items on the agenda, Council considered estimates for paving that they want to do this year. Figures were not divulged, but they must have been sizeable, because Council tabled the measure for later consideration. The project would repave sections of several streets, along with two parking lots and two basketball courts.

A new ordinance incorporating parts of the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) will be advertised, having been vetted for all the proper legal technicalities. The IPMC subset that the borough will adopt is intended to help keep the town presentable, by minimizing the number of deteriorating or poorly-maintained properties. Until the borough can find and train its own enforcer, it will take advantage of the county's Council of Governments enforcement mechanisms.

And, just in case you weren't aware, April is National Safe Digging Month, so designated by the Call Before You Dig/811 program. Council adopted a proclamation for the program sponsored by Pennsylvania811.

The Great Bend Borough Council will meet next in public on Thursday, May 6, 2021, beginning at 7:00pm in the Borough Building at Elizabeth and Franklin Streets.

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Interfaith Kicks Off Capital Campaign

Since moving to the former Montrose United Methodist Church building last year, staff and volunteers at Susquehanna County Interfaith feel that they have been able to reach more people and provide more efficient services. The pandemic forced them to close their doors on Route 706 east of town sooner than they had anticipated, but it gave them time to reassess their programs.

"Now everything is centralized to the place so we can get everything done ahead of time. It's a smoother operation," said Interfaith board member Bob Owens, noting that material donations were often stored in the barns and garages of supporters until they could be processed. "This place also puts us in a better position to get to the root of poverty and help people find stabilization."

The Thrift Store that has long been a hallmark of the agency opened in July 2020 and is fully operational at the west end of the building, the exquisite stained glass windows sending a splash of colors across the shop displays on a sunny afternoon. Donations that used to take up to two weeks to be sorted, cleaned and tagged as merchandise can now make it from trucks and trunks to the sales floor in two days.

"All of our donations are done now by appointment, which makes the process easier for those who are donating household items," Interfaith executive director Cindy Beeman explained. Utilities like a washer and dryer and large sinks have made processing more efficient. Keeping things sanitary was challenging prior to the move.

"It's been nice to have a lot more room," Beeman continued. "We were able to do our entire Christmas program right from here, which was wonderful." The church had always offered some space to Interfaith for the storage of items donated by corporations and individuals in the past, but the holiday campaign was still spread out across the town.

The dedicated crew that keeps Interfaith humming believes that remodeling the 150-year-old church building will provide a space that is thriving, dynamic, and has lasting benefits for this and future generations. The wish list for interior renovations includes the conversion of the sanctuary into an auditorium that can accommodate larger programs, a new handicapped-accessible entrance, and an elevator to allow better access from the first floor to the basement offices that face Jessup Street.

That will come in time, but the warmer weather presents an opportunity to address issues on the outside of the building. To cover the costs of an extensive face lift of the exterior, Susquehanna County Interfaith has embarked on a capital campaign to solicit community support. In addition to maintaining the structure, the goal is to make the building as warm and inviting on the outside as it has become on the inside.

Phase one is securing the exterior of the building, which will be done by Mooney Builders of Montrose. Company owner Patrick Mooney is excited about the project, which he describes as a massive job.

"It is in bad condition. It should have been done five years ago," Mooney said of paint flaking off the walls and missing pieces of the dental work that makes the landmark building so unique. "I think people in town are going to be happy to see it sustained. It will be a nice uplift for Montrose."

Beeman credits a representative from Hemmler & Camayd Architects for volunteering the time to assess the entire structure and provide guidance as to how to keep the improvements historically accurate. "Everything has been evaluated. The bones are good all the way up to the steeple," Beeman related. "We just need to make these adjustments so it looks like it was."

According to Mooney, window trim will be scraped and repainted, and the soffits and dental work will be restored. Most of the flat walls of the building will be covered in vinyl siding over a new layer of insulation.

"We're basically revitalizing the building while keeping the original architecture as close to when it was built'" Beeman remarked. The estimated cost of the exterior renovation is $175,000, and $26,000 has already been raised for the effort. Beeman is optimistic that the community will rally to bring the project to fruition. "A lot of people have really good, strong feelings about this building."

There are numerous ways to contribute. Donations can be made securely at www.interfaithsc.org or when dropping off useful and reusable items. Another option is through a program called NEPA Gives (www.nepagives.org), which directs people to set up a page on Facebook to solicit funds for the project. "One hundred percent of those funds go directly into our account," Beeman maintained.

Small cardboard churches with a slot for spare change or bills are available at the thrift shop. That unique approach allows for a slow but steady accumulation of money, and every penny counts. "It's a nice way for parents to get their kids involved in taking care of landmark buildings," Beeman suggested. "My goal is, by the time we pay the contractors, we will have the money for them."

Board members and staff have no qualms about the possibility of surpassing the goal, as there are still many improvements needed inside like new flooring and electrical upgrades. Beeman and Mooney also agreed that it's good to be prepared for some surprises.

"Whenever you start a project like this, you expect to uncover some other problems." said Beeman. "We'll do what we can do. We might have to do more in a few years."

Interested readers can learn more and follow the progress of the renovations on the Susquehanna County Interfaith Facebook page.

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Status Quo for Lanesboro

By Rhonda Parfitt

The Lanesboro Council opened their April monthly meeting with the pledge of allegiance and the approving of the previous month's minutes.

Likely the longest portion of the meeting was the reading of correspondence. Included were notice of a quarry permit, recall notice on the plow truck, monthly Triboro municipal authority report, notice from Adams Cable, DLG Homes, request for participation from the Susquehanna County Conservation District, and a bill from Environmental Service Corporation for work performed on sewer lines within the Borough, which the Council passed a motion to pay.

Police Chief Jim Smith provided the police report which included 139 hours worked for the month of March among violations for illegally parked vehicles, harassments, speeding violations, suspended drivers licenses, inspection violations, and an assist to state police, among others. The chief also noted that he was preparing to put lines out when the weather got warmer and asked to be notified of known problem areas.

Resident Scott Megivern was present to request permission from the Council to place a wood-working business on Main Street. Council unanimously and enthusiastically voiced their support for his endeavor and stated that they always encourage new businesses in the area.

Regarding streets, President Dan Boughton inquired about hiring out for street sweeping. Prices would be gathered and considered. Also noted was that the sidewalks would be started soon.

The parks report included an update that Boy Scout Preston Perry was intending to build picnic tables for Luciana Park to complete his Eagle Scout Project and that the boy scouts would be doing a clean-up on April 18th.

Mr. Boughton stated that some volunteers from the Triboro Mobile Food Pantry were going to redo the bathrooms as a thank you to the Council for allowing them use of the building every month. Also noted was that the Lanesboro Cemetery was holding a hoagie fundraiser and they desired to use the Community Center as a pick-up location. Council agreed.

The Council agreed to move forward with the complaints regarding the 17 blighted properties as chosen at the last meeting.

The update on the recreation building was that the poles had finally been moved and Mayor Chris Maby could proceed with having electric run to the building.

With no new business, the Council adjourned the meeting at 8:00pm.

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